Report warns that SEND reforms are failing families
By Rachel Lawler
The government is failing children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families, according to a new report from the Education Select Committee.
The group of MPS has warned that SEND reforms introduced in 2014, designed to improve the experiences of children with SEND and their families, have been poorly implemented.
Based on 70 interviews and 700 pieces of written evidence, the report says that parents and carers for children with SEND face a tangle of bureaucracy, while local authorities struggle to meet parent expectations in the face of budget cuts.
The report calls for more rigorous inspections of local authorities and for parents to be able to appeal directly to the Department for Education for help when local authorities are not complying with the law.
"Treacle of bureaucracy"
Robert Halfon, chair of the Education Select Committee, said: “Many parents face a titanic struggle just to try and ensure their child gets access to the right support.
“Families are often forced to wade through a treacle of bureaucracy, in a system which breeds conflict and despair as parents try and navigate a postcode lottery of provision. Children and parents should not have to struggle in this way – they should be supported.”
Responding to the report, Nicola Gibson, inclusion manager at the Alliance, said: “The committee is right to highlight the many challenges that the families of children with special educational needs and disabilities face: excessive bureaucracy, a complex and confusing system, and an ongoing lack of adequate resources.
“It’s very disappointing, therefore, that the report makes so little reference to the early years, given that these problems are so acutely felt in this part of the education sector.
“Too many children with SEND are missing out on the high-quality early years provision available to their peers, and this is simply not acceptable. Parents of children with SEND need better cross-agency working, more funding directed at early intervention and better, earlier support - recommendations that we would have hoped would appear in the report’s conclusion.
"What's more, in praising the government’s positive steps on funding without acknowledging the huge issues in the early years sector, the committee has failed to recognise the significant detrimental impact that a lack of adequate funding is having on children with SEND in their formative years.
"The early years is a crucial element of a child's educational journey, and yet we continue to see reports on education that focus solely on primary, secondary and post-16 education. We hope in any ongoing work on SEND, the committee will take steps to address this omission."
Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: “This devastating report exposes a system on the verge of a breakdown. Even a senior conservative MP is now warning that parents have been ‘let down’ and ‘left in despair’ without the support they and their children need.
“It is the latest evidence that the most vulnerable children are paying the highest price for this government’s cuts.”
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